Giving up is an attempt to make a different future

    This is some incredible writing from psychotherapist Adam Phillips. It’s an edited extract from his forthcoming book On Giving Up and is based on the subtle difference between ‘giving up’ something and… just giving up.

    It’s a really important read, at least for me, and particularly poignant at the start of the year. The fact that he talks about Montaigne (one of my favourite authors) and Marion Milner’s demarcation of different forms of attention makes this a highly recommended read. It’s long, but worth it.

    I’ve almost picked at random a section to quote here because it’s all fantastic.

    A wide, imaginative illustration capturing the essence of 'Giving up is an attempt to make a different future.' The scene depicts a seamless blend of characters in various states of surrender and aspiration, symbolizing the complex interplay between relinquishing and pursuing. The continuous landscape merges elements of hope and despair, reflecting the subtlety of the concept. Subtle references to Montaigne and Marion Milner, like books and thoughtful symbols, are integrated throughout.
    There are, to put it as simply as possible, what turn out to be good and bad sacrifices (and sacrifice creates the illusion – or reassures us – that we can choose our losses). There is the giving up that we can admire and aspire to, and the giving up that profoundly unsettles us. What, for example, does real hope or real despair require us to relinquish? What exactly do we imagine we are doing when we give something up? There is an essential and far-reaching ambiguity to this simple idea. We give things up when we believe we can change; we give up when we believe we can’t.

    All the new thinking, like all the old thinking, is about sacrifice, about what we should give up to get the lives we should want. For our health, for our planet, for our emotional and moral wellbeing – and, indeed, for the profits of the rich – we are asked to give up a great deal now. But alongside this orgy of improving self-sacrifices – or perhaps underlying it – there is a despair and terror of just wanting to give up. A need to keep at bay the sense that life may not be worth the struggle, the struggle that religions and therapies and education, and entertainment, and commodities, and the arts in general are there to help us with. For more and more people now it seems that it is their hatred and their prejudice and their scapegoating that actually keeps them going. As though we are tempted more than ever by what Nietzsche once called “a will to nothingness, a counter-willan aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life”.

    The abiding disillusionment with politics and personal relationships, the demand for and the fear of free speech, the dread and the longing for consensus and the coerced consensus of the various fundamentalisms has created a cultural climate of intimidation and righteous indignation. It is as if our ambivalence about our aliveness – about the feeling alive that, however fleeting, sustains us – has become an unbearable tension and needs to be resolved. So even though we cannot, as yet, imagine or describe our lives without the idea of sacrifice, and its secret sharer, compromise, the whole notion of what we want and can get through sacrifice is less clear; both what we think we want and what we are as yet unaware of wanting. The formulating of personal and political ideals has become either too assured or too precarious. And the whole notion of sacrifice depends upon our knowing what we want.

    Source: What we talk about when we talk about giving up | The Guardian

    Image: DALL-E 3

    You'll be hearing a lot more about nodules

    It was only this year that I first heard about nodules, rock-shaped objects formed over millions of years on the sea bed which contain rare earth minerals. We use these for making batteries and other technologies which may help us transition away from fossil fuels.

    However, deep-sea mining is, understandably, a controversial topic. At a recent summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, The Cook Islands' Prime Minister outlined his support for exploration and highlighted its potential by gifting seabed nodules to fellow leaders.

    This, of course, is a problem caused by capitalism, and the view that the natural world is a resource to be exploited by humans. We’re talking about something which is by definition a non-renewable resource. I think we need to tread (and dive) extremely carefully.

    What’s black, shaped like a potato and found in the suitcases of Pacific leaders when they leave a regional summit in the Cook Islands this week? It’s called a seabed nodule, a clump of metallic substances that form at a rate of just centimetres over millions of years.

    Deep-sea mining advocates say they could be the answer to global demand for minerals to make batteries and transform economies away from fossil fuels. The prime minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown, is offering nodules as mementos to fellow leaders from the Pacific Islands Forum (Pif), a bloc of 16 countries and two territories that wraps up its most important annual political meeting on Friday.


    “Forty years of ocean survey work suggests as much as 6.7bn tonnes of mineral-rich manganese nodules, found at a depth of 5,000m, are spread over some 750,000 square kilometres of the Cook Islands continental shelf,” [the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority] says.

    Source: Here be nodules: will deep-sea mineral riches divide the Pacific family? | Deep-sea mining | The Guardian

    Parenting the parents

    This article in The Guardian discusses the challenges and opportunities of “parenting” one’s own parents, especially as people live longer.

    It highlights the importance of encouraging older parents to engage with technology, as studies show it can improve cognition and memory. The article also talks about the importance of social engagement, physical activity, and nutrition.

    Thankfully, my parents, both in their mid-seventies, are doing pretty well :)


    Parenting no longer starts and stops with our children. Nor is it confined to those who have children. In a time of unrelenting change and ever-extending life, most of us will – at some stage – find ourselves “parenting” our own parents.

    Indeed, many of us – particularly those who had families later – will find ourselves simultaneously parenting our kids and our parents. In one breath we’ll be begging our children to swap French fries for vegetables, and in the next breath we’ll be urging our parents to exchange cake for sardines. Little wonder today’s midlifers are known as the sandwich generation.


    Dr Eamon Laird, researcher in health and ageing at Limerick university, agrees that we should be encouraging older parents to try new things. And the further out of their comfort zone they feel, the better. “It’s always good to keep the mind active and fresh,” he told me. “New challenges can help build and maintain new brain connections and can be good for brain and overall health.”


    As well as a daily walk, Laird recommends vitamin D and B12 supplements – both of which appear to moderate the chance of depression in older people. “Depression matters,” he added. “Not just because it reduces quality of life, but because in older people there seems to be a link between depression and dementia which we’re still unpacking.”


    In truth, anyone over 50 would do well to follow these simple guidelines: engage with something new every day, take a daily walk of at least 20 minutes, socialise regularly, take a daily multivitamin for seniors and check the protein content of our meals. Perhaps we should think of it as self-parenting.

    Source: Walks, tech and protein: how to parent your own parents | The Guardian

    Setting up a digital executor

    A short article in The Guardian about making sure that people can do useful things with your digital stuff should you pass away.

    I have the Google inactive account manager set to three months. That should cover most eventualities.

    According to the wealth management firm St James’s Place, almost three-quarters of Britons with a will (71%) don’t make any reference to their digital life. But while a document detailing your digital wishes isn’t legally binding like a traditional will, it can be invaluable for loved ones.


    You can appoint a digital executor in your will, who will be responsible for closing, memorialising or managing your accounts, along with sharing or deleting digital assets such as photos and videos.

    Source: Digital legacy: how to organise your online life for after you die | The Guardian

    Image: DALL-E 3

    People quit managers, not jobs

    It turns out that the saying that “people quit managers, not jobs” is actually true. Research carried out by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) shows that there’s “widespread concern” over the quality of managers. Indeed, 82% have become so accidentally and received no formal training.

    I’ve had some terrible bosses. I don’t particularly want to focus on them, but rather take the opportunity to encourage those who line manage others to get some training around nonviolent communication. Also, let me just tell you that you don’t need a boss. You can entirely work in a decentralised, non-hierarchical way. I do so every day.

    Almost one-third of UK workers say they’ve quit a job because of a negative workplace culture, according to a new survey that underlines the risks of managers failing to rein in toxic behaviour.


    Other factors that the 2,018 workers questioned in the survey cited as reasons for leaving a job in the past included a negative relationship with a manager (28%) and discrimination or harassment (12%).

    Among those workers who told researchers they had an ineffective manager, one-third said they were less motivated to do a good job – and as many as half were considering leaving in the next 12 months.

    Source: Bad management has prompted one in three UK workers to quit, survey finds | The Guardian

    Image: Unsplash

    The rolling drama of the climate crisis just got a whole lot worse

    It’s massively concerning that, although scientists seem to understand why the earth has been warming due to climate change over the last few decades, they don’t seem to know why there’s all of a sudden been a huge spike.

    I just hope it’s not something like methane being released from permafrost, because then we are all completely shafted.

    Chart showing huge spike in temperature
    Global temperatures soared to a new record in September by a huge margin, stunning scientists and leading one to describe it as “absolutely gobsmackingly bananas”.

    The hottest September on record follows the hottest August and hottest July, with the latter being the hottest month ever recorded. The high temperatures have driven heatwaves and wildfires across the world.

    September 2023 beat the previous record for that month by 0.5C, the largest jump in temperature ever seen. September was about 1.8C warmer than pre-industrial levels. Datasets from European and Japanese scientists confirm the leap.

    The heat is the result of the continuing high levels of carbon dioxide emissions combined with a rapid flip of the planet’s biggest natural climate phenomenon, El Niño. The previous three years saw La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which lowers global temperature by a few tenths of a degree as more heat is stored in the ocean.


    The scientists said that the exceptional events of 2023 could be a normal year in just a decade, unless there is a dramatic increase in climate action. The researchers overwhelmingly pointed to one action as critical: slashing the burning of fossil fuels down to zero.

    Source: ‘Gobsmackingly bananas’: scientists stunned by planet’s record September heat | The Guardian

    Migraines and 'ability'

    Granted it’s been over a decade, but when I worked at a university I had to be on the ‘disabled’ register due to my migraines. That meant my line manager could make accommodations such as being sat next to a window so the fluorescent lights didn’t trigger me.

    Almost everyone I know has some kind of medical condition which affects their work to a greater or lesser extent. These are the things that we used to hide, until we realised (perhaps for the first time during the pandemic) that we’re all just temporarily abled.

    This letter in The Guardian is a response to an article about a minister setpping down due to chronic migraines. I don’t get 15 or more a month, as she does, but I probably average 3-4 and, because they add up, it’s imperative that I have flexible working conditions. But then, shouldn’t we all?

    Dehenna Davison has resigned as a minister, citing chronic migraines (Report, 18 September). Migraines are a common and debilitating condition affecting many people; chronic migraine is defined as an ongoing experience of 15 or more migraine days a month. So it is not difficult to imagine how hard it has been for Ms Davison to give the energy she wants to her role.

    But while it is valuable that chronic migraines have been given some media attention, it is also troubling that the message is, unfortunately, that those with such conditions do not have equal value and should quit if they can’t manage the job – a message that many people living with migraines and other long-term conditions and disabilities will be familiar with, whatever their role or employer.

    Managing work, life and migraines takes more than the “patience at times” that Davison thanks her colleagues for. It needs recognition, respect and a commitment from employers to prioritise the health of workers and support them to work with the condition, not drop back because of it.

    Anna Martin Oxford

    Source: People living with migraines need better support from employers | The Guardian

    No career progression on a dead planet

    There’s a film starring Matt Damon called Elysium from 2013 in which the wealthy live on a man-made space station in luxury, while the rest of the population live on a ruined Earth. With the latest announcement about a new huge oilfield being opened in the North Sea, the obscene desire for global elites to put profit before planet is clear for all to see.

    As we hurtle towards this scenario, many have realised that there is no longer any link between meaningful work, a decent salary, and a fulfilling life.

    Person sitting on a hillside
    James, a 31-year-old in Glasgow, had always worked hard, from striving for a first at university to working until 8pm or 9pm at the office in the civil service in the hopes of getting noticed.

    But during lockdown in 2020, James had an epiphany about what he valued in life when reading the book Bullshit Jobs by the anthropologist David Graeber. “He talks a lot about how jobs that provide social utility are generally pay-poor while the inverse are paid more,” James says.

    James felt he was working doggedly – but not necessarily either generating public good or building a stable financial life. “It felt futile … You can work really hard and you’re still not going to get ahead,” he says.

    “Salaries and housing costs are so mismatched at this point that you would really need to jump ahead in your career to be able to buy in parts of the country. Not that [owning property] is the be-all and end-all, but it’s kind of a foundation to having financial stability.”

    He now focuses on his life, putting his phone on aeroplane mode while doing activities such as hiking, reading and watching films. “I still value work, I’m very committed to my position. But I’ve just realised that this myth a lot of millennials were told – graft, graft, graft and you’ll always get what you want – isn’t necessarily true,” James says. “It’s a reprioritisation.”

    Social mobility in the UK is at its worst in more than 50 years, a recent study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found, with children from poor households finding it harder than 40 years ago to move into higher income brackets. The IFS said gifts and inheritances from older generations were becoming more important to household incomes.

    Source: ‘It felt futile’: young Britons swap career-driven lives for family and fun | The Guardian

    Shrinkflation, sizes, and shaming

    I’d be surprised if ‘shrinkflation’ isn’t word of the year for 2023. For those unaware, it’s the reason why prices for some products have stayed the same while their size decreases.

    This article is about Carrefour, one of Team Belshaw’s favourite overseas supermarkets. They’ve added warnings on shelves to “shame” brands. The thing is, as this thread from Mario Zechner shows, it’s not as if supermarkets aren’t in the price fixing game. Also, as I wrote about recently, stores are essentially panopticons.

    While I’m on the subject, you might be interested in this crowdsourced website which tracks the differences in size of packs of everything from toothpaste to shortbread biscuits.

    The French supermarket chain Carrefour has put labels on its shelves this week warning shoppers of “shrinkflation”, the phenomenon where manufacturers reduce pack sizes rather than increase prices.

    It has slapped price warnings on products from Lindt chocolates to Lipton iced tea to pressure top consumer goods suppliers Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to tackle the issue in advance of much-anticipated contract talks.


    Carrefour has marked 26 products in its stores in France with the labels, which say: “This product has seen its volume or weight fall and the effective price from the supplier rise.”

    For example, Carrefour said a bottle of sugar-free peach-flavoured Lipton iced tea, produced by PepsiCo, shrank to 1.25 litres (0.33 gallon) from 1.5 litres, resulting in a 40% effective increase in the price a litre.

    Source: Carrefour puts ‘shrinkflation’ price warnings on food to shame brands | The Guardian

    Walking 1,000 miles across Europe

    As I know from personal experience, walking a long way by yourself is hard work, both mentally and physically. As this article points out, doing so as a woman is even harder, so good on Lea Page for not only walking a thousand miles across Europe, but writing about how the biggest danger is… men.

    When I walk alone, the consequences of every good or bad choice I make fall entirely on me: a responsibility and a freedom. As a woman and a mother, I rarely only have to consider what I want and need without having to first attend to other people. I know there are risks, but each time I come out of that “forest”, I feel stronger and more confident. Weighed against the simple daily rhythms of a long-distance walk and the joy and wonder I experience, risk – reasonable risk – becomes a small part of the equation, and one I am willing to accept.


    One other time, while walking along a river just outside Colle di Val D’Elsa in Tuscany, I felt that familiar clench of panic. This river, a glacial robin’s-egg blue, meandered and tumbled gently. The gorge was not deep, but a lonely wooded path just outside a city struck me as the perfect place for an ambush. Clearly, men exist everywhere, so it made no sense to be frightened in that one particular place. I knew that, statistically, women are safer out in the world than they are at home, but in that moment, knowledge felt like thin protection. Unable to shake my feelings of dread, I called my husband, and we talked about inconsequential things so I could hear his sleepy voice and keep putting one foot in front of another.

    And that’s what women are really talking about when we talk about being afraid. We are talking about men. But there is, I learned, a difference between being afraid and being unsafe.

    Source: I walked 1,000 miles alone through Europe – and learned that fear is the price of freedom | The Guardian

    Poverty is expensive. Cash helps homeless people.

    Real-world studies such as this are important for busting myths about homeless people spending money recklessly compared to the rest of us.

    The widely held stereotype that people experiencing homelessness would be more likely to spend extra cash on drugs, alcohol and “temptation goods” has been upended by a study that found a majority used a $7,500 payment mostly on rent, food, housing, transit and clothes.

    The biases punctured by the study highlight the difficulties in developing policies to reduce homelessness, say the Canadian researchers behind it. They said the unconditional cash appeared to reduce homelessness, giving added weight to calls for a guaranteed basic income that would help adults cover essential living expenses.


    They found the cash recipients each spent an average of 99 fewer days homeless than the control group, increased their savings more and also “cost” society less by spending less time in shelters.


    Researchers ensured the cash was in a lump sum “to enable maximum purchasing freedom and choice” as opposed to small, consistent transfers.

    Source: Canada study debunks stereotypes of homeless people’s spending habits | The Guardian

    Hacking the vagus nerve

    It looks like electric stimulation of the vagus nerve using something like a TENS machine could help with everything from obesity and depression to Long Covid.

    One of the universities local to me is leading some of this work, and they have a page about it here.

    From plunging your face into icy water, to piercing the small flap of cartilage in front of your ear, the internet is awash with tips for hacking this system that carries signals between the brain and chest and abdominal organs.


    Meanwhile, scientific interest in vagus nerve stimulation is exploding, with studies investigating it as a potential treatment for everything from obesity to depression, arthritis and Covid-related fatigue. So, what exactly is the vagus nerve, and is all this hype warranted?

    The vagus nerve is, in fact, a pair of nerves that serve as a two-way communication channel between the brain and the heart, lungs and abdominal organs, plus structures such as the oesophagus and voice box, helping to control involuntary processes, including breathing, heart rate, digestion and immune responses. They are also an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which governs the “rest and digest” processes, and relaxes the body after periods of stress or danger that activate our sympathetic “fight or flight” responses.


    Search “vagus nerve hacks” on TikTok, and you’ll be bombarded with tips ranging from humming in a low voice to twisting your neck and rolling your eyes, to practising yoga or meditation exercises.

    Researchers who study the vagus nerve are broadly sceptical of such claims. Though such techniques may help you to feel calmer and happier by activating the autonomic nervous system, the vagus nerve is only one component of that. “If your heart rate slows, then your vagus nerve is being stimulated,” says Tracey. “However, the nerve fibres that slow your heart rate may not be the same fibres that control your inflammation. It may also depend on whether your vagus nerves are healthy.”

    Similarly, immersing your face in cold water may also slow down your heart rate by triggering something called the mammalian dive reflex, which also triggers breath-holding and diverts blood from the limbs to the core. This may serve to protect us from drowning by conserving oxygen, but it involves sympathetic and parasympathetic responses.

    Electrical stimulation may hold greater promise though. One thing that makes the vagus nerves so attractive is surgical accessibility in the neck. “It is quite easy to implant some device that will try to stimulate them,” says Dr Benjamin Metcalfe at the University of Bath, who is studying how the body responds to electrical vagus nerve stimulation. “The other reason they’re attractive is because they connect to so many different organ systems. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that vagus nerve stimulation will treat a wide range of diseases and disorders – everything from rheumatoid arthritis through to depression and alcoholism.”

    Source: The key to depression, obesity, alcoholism – and more? Why the vagus nerve is so exciting to scientists | The Guardian

    Jobs, AI, and human worth

    I’m sharing this article to make a comment about the framing for these kinds of things. The article is an extract from a book by David Runciman, and implicitly links human worth to jobs.

    Part of the existential dread of AI replacing humans is that, if your job is your life, then who are you without the doing? Instead of hand-wringing about robots and machines, perhaps our time is better spent figuring out who we are and how we want to flourish.

    In the slew of reports published in the 2010s looking to identify which jobs were most at risk of being automated out of existence, sports officials usually ranked very high up the list (the best known of these studies, by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne in 2017, put a 98% probability on sports officiating being phased out by computers within 20 years). Here, after all, is a human enterprise where the single most important qualification is an ability to get the answer right. In or out? Ball or strike? Fair or foul? These are decisions that need to be underpinned by accurate intelligence. The technology does not even have to be state-of-the-art to produce far better answers than humans can. Hawk-Eye systems have been outperforming human eyesight for nearly 20 years. They were first officially adopted for tennis line calls in 2006, to check cricket umpire decisions in 2009 and, more recently, to rule on football offsides.


    Efficiency – even accuracy – turns out not to be the main requirement of the organisations that employ people to give decisions during sports games. They are also highly sensitive to appearance, which includes a wish to keep their sport looking and feeling like it’s still a human-centred enterprise. Smart technology can do many things, but in the absence of convincingly humanoid robots, it can’t really do that. So actual people are required to stand between the machines and those on the receiving end of their judgments. The result is more work all round.


    How things look isn’t everything. There are significant parts of every organisation where appearance doesn’t matter so much, in the backrooms and maybe even the boardrooms that the public never gets to see. Behind-the-scenes technical knowledge that underpins the performance of public-facing tasks is likely to be an increasingly precarious basis for reliable employment. This is true of many professions, including accountancy, consultancy and the law. There will still be lots of work for the people who deal with people. But the business of gathering data, processing information and searching for precedents can now more reliably be done by machines. The people who used to undertake this work, especially those in entry-level jobs such as clerks, administrative assistants and paralegals, might not be OK.


    History offers a partial guide to what might happen. Worries about automation displacing human workers are as old as the idea of the job itself. The Industrial Revolution disrupted many kinds of labour – especially on the land – and undid entire ways of life. The transition was grim for those who had to switch from one mode of subsistence existence to another. Yet the end result was many more jobs, not fewer. Factories brought in machines to do faster and more reliably what humans used to do or could never do at all; at the same time, factories were where the new jobs appeared, involving the performance of tasks that were never required before the coming of the machines. This pattern has repeated itself time and again: new technology displaces familiar forms of work, causing massively painful disruption. It is little consolation to the people who lose their jobs to be told that soon enough there will be entirely new ways of earning a living. But there will.

    Source: The end of work: which jobs will survive the AI revolution? | The Guardian

    NYC 🫶 renewable energy

    New York’s Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA) demonstrates the strength of grassroots movements and the potential of publicly owned utilities to lead the way in the adoption of renewable energy.

    This serves as a reminder that decentralised power structures can be more agile and responsive to the needs of the public. When communities have a say in decision-making processes, they can make bold moves towards a sustainable future, create new jobs, and ensure equitable access to clean, affordable energy. ✊

    The skyline behind the Brooklyn Bridge in New York on 16 April.

    New York state has passed legislation that will scale up the state’s renewable energy production and signals a major step toward moving utilities out of private hands to become publicly owned.


    The Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA) will ensure that all state-owned properties that ordinarily receive power from the New York power authority (NYPA) are run on renewable energy by 2030. It will also require municipally owned properties – including many hospitals and schools, as well as public housing and public transit – to switch to renewable energy by 2035.


    The passage of this first-of-its-kind law comes after years of grassroots campaigning by climate and environmental organizers in New York state.


    Historically, when utilities are owned by investors, profits go to shareholders. But in publicly owned models, profits are reinvested in the utility’s operations. Rates on energy bills are also generally lower.


    The newly passed law also ensures creation of union jobs for the renewable projects, guaranteeing pay rate protection, offering retraining, and making sure that new positions are filled with workers who have lost or would be losing employment in the non-renewable energy sector.

    Source: New York takes big step toward renewable energy in ‘historic’ climate win | The Guardian

    Lifehouses, not churches

    We used to go to church regularly. Then, as the kids grew older and sporting fixtures took over the weekend, we started going sporadically. Then, after the pandemic, we stopped going altogether. It seems we weren’t alone, as attendance, which was already declining, has fallen sharply. In fact, around 25% of Anglican churches no longer hold weekly services.

    So what are we to do with these buildings? There are two massive ones at the end of our road, and a third was converted into a house a couple of decades ago. Writing in The Guardian, Simon Jenkins suggests we need to reconnect the buildings with the communities which surround them.

    Church with daffodils
    Throughout history these buildings have offered their publics ceremony and memorial, peace and meditation, charity and friendship, quite apart from faith. It is wrong that modern communities do not use them for such – or any other – purposes merely because religion has declined. They were built on the tithes of rich and poor alike.


    It is senseless to expect the Church of England to find the money to maintain these places into the future. The solution must be to reconnect them to the surrounding communities from which the decline in worship has distanced them. They must be wholly or partly secularised. This is happening across Europe, where churches are being brought under the aegis of local councils. They can benefit from a specific – usually small – local “church tax” which, in countries such as Sweden and Germany, is voluntary. This has been the churches’ salvation.

    Adam Greenfield expands on this with the concept of 'Lifehouses'. He discusses this in a Mastodon thread  with the following quotation coming from his newsletter:
    The fundamental idea of the Lifehouse is that there should be a place in every three-four city-block radius where you can charge your phone when the power’s down everywhere else, draw drinking water when the supply from the mains is for whatever reason untrustworthy, gather with your neighbors to discuss and deliberate over matters of common concern, organize reliable childcare, borrow tools it doesn’t make sense for any one household to own individually, and so on, and that these can and should be one and the same place. As a foundation for collective resourcefulness, the Lifehouse is a practical implementation of solarpunk values, and it’s eminently doable.


    And of course, in longer-established neighborhoods, there will often already be a building or physical site that organically serves many of these functions – the neighborhood’s naturally-arising Schelling Point, or node of unconscious coordination. Whether church, mosque, synagogue, high-school gym or public library, it will be where people instinctively turn for shelter and aid in times of trouble. What I believe our troubled times now ask of us is that we be more conscious and purposive about creating loose networks of such places, each of them provisioned against the hour of maximum need.

    Source: The decline of churchgoing doesn’t have to mean the decline of churches – they can help us level up | The Guardian

    Sad Ben Affleck

    I wouldn’t usually comment on celebrity culture, but I wanted to make three points here. First, are we sure that Ben Affleck isn’t depressed?

    Second, why the continued assumption that being wealthy, famous, and good looking means you must be happy?

    Third (and most importantly) even if you’re an actor, it doesn’t mean you’re good at dissimulation during down time. Some people just look bored when they’re bored. Like me.

    It is this disconnect, you suspect, that makes Affleck so meme-able. He has everything, and yet he appears to enjoy none of it. Remember the Affleck of old, young and handsome and so cocky that you couldn’t help but take against the guy? That Affleck is gone. In his place is a man weighed down by the sheer punishing, relentless burden of life on Earth. And that, as you no doubt realise for yourself,is much more our speed.
    Source: A mask of unadorned misery: how Ben Affleck became the world’s biggest meme | The Guardian

    Tax and/or eat the rich

    I’m essentially just bookmarking this in case I think that I’ve misremembered the astounding difference in global wealth between the top 1% and bottom 90% mentioned in this article

    The report said that for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90%in the past two years, each billionaire gained roughly $1.7m. Despite small falls in 2022, the combined fortune of billionaires had increased by $2.7bn a day. Pandemic gains came after a decade when both the number and wealth of billionaires had doubled.
    Source: Call for new taxes on super-rich after 1% pocket two-thirds of all new wealth | The Guardian

    Chameleon e-ink car

    Most of the things at the annual CES tech show in Las Vegas every year are either pointless (at least to me) or in some way enabling of ever-greater surveillance.

    However, this e-ink car really caught my imagination. I’m a big fan of both e-ink (it’s easy on the eyes) and customisation, so this is really in my sweet spot. I did wonder for half a second about a whole movie plot using e-ink for a getaway car, and then I realised that every car these days has a GPS chip and SIM card in it…

    Introduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, BMW’s i Vision Dee caught the attention with its E-ink outer skin, which can change colour in an instant. Don’t expect that on a car you can buy any time soon but it also has a head-up display projected across the full width of the windscreen, which will be available from 2025.
    Source: Chameleon cars, urine scanners and other standouts from CES 2023 |  The Guardian

    Spreading joy in 2023

    I love the idea behind this list of 52 acts of kindness. Realistically, number 14, 16, and 38 are the ones I’m likely to do (because I already do them!)

    14. Pay a compliment “You’re looking nice,” is good. “You have great skin” or “I love your shoes” is better. Someone once told me I had “cute ears” and I treasured it for years.

    16. Make a mixtape Give someone a curated Spotify or YouTube playlist of stuff you think they would like.

    38. Drive kindly If you’re sure it’s safe, flash your lights or wave your hand at someone waiting to cross the road in front of you.

    Source: 52 acts of kindness: how to spread joy in every week of 2023 | The Guardian

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